"I'm the only one singing lead vocals but the other guys kind of scream in the microphone once in a while for back-ups," laughed former Child's Play drummer turned Charm City Devils lead vocalist John Allen as he discussed the band's new EP "1904" his personal "Crusade" for his hometown and more.
A musician since his childhood, Allen did the reverse of most and actually switched from guitar to drums instead of the reverse. Like most great rock 'n' roll journeys his too has a funny if not ironic twist.
"When I was a little kid I started on guitar and there were all of these other guitar players around and I remember at the time that I felt it was more difficult for me to learn guitar and how to play songs all the way through. Whereas drums, I watched drummers on TV and I figured out how to play; you know, cross your arms over to play the hi-hat; I had a buddy who got a kit before me and I don't know if he ever saw a drummer play before because he played unorthodox, he played the hi-hat with his left hand although he was right handed. I said, no, no you're not supposed to play like that, so I took his sticks and sat down and said, this is how you're supposed to play and he quickly took the sticks from me, kind of like OK kid get outta here (laughs) but yeah, I think it came more naturally to me although I really wanted to be a guitar player and singer in the beginning. So I'm a hack guitar player but I feel I need to know how to play especially for writing melodies."
Fast Forward to 2007 when five guys from Baltimore got together and formed what would eventually become the Charm City Devils. Joining Allen were drummer Jason Heiser, guitarists Victor Karrera and Nick Kay along with bassist Anthony Arambulawho has since departed the band.
"Everybody in the band is from Baltimore except our new bass player Rick Reynolds who is actually from Australia by way of Dallas, Texas and he's currently residing in Philadelphia so he's all over the globe; he's a jet-setter (laughs)."
So how did the band come up with a name like Charm City Devils?
"We actually were named by Nikki Sixx. Way back when we were getting signed, talking to Eleven Seven Music about doing a deal and we were bantering around names and it seemed like every week I was sending like 20 names up to the label and we could never seem to come to consensus on a band name. Finally one day, I was working down in my studio and I saw I had a voice message, so I listened to it and it was Nikki Sixx and it said, "Hey John its's Nikki Sixx, I've got the perfect band name for ya' call me back" and I was like, oh crap (laughs); should I call him back because it freaked me out. So I gave him a call and he said, "I've got the name for ya'; Charm City Devils. Like Charm City because that's where you guys are from and Devils because it sounds like a gang and a band is a gang and that's it!" "I said, OK cool done! They were talking about us going on "Crue Fest" and the only thing holding us up was a name and at that point and I'm going to make a "Spinal Tap" reference here; "You can call us Shit Sandwich for all I care, just put us on the tour" (laughs) so yeah."
After releasing their debut album "Let's Rock-N-Roll" and being named "Best New Rock Band" for 2009 by iTunes as well as achieving some Billboard charting success, the band took some time off; "1904" is their return; so why an EP and not a full length and how has the process changed?
"We just wanted to be hip with all the kids," he said with a laugh. "We were on a hiatus for the last couple of years and I was working in another project and we had done two EPs because that's where the business seems to be sort of trending and we're just getting back into it, just getting our feet wet. We have material backlogged but it's not finished, it's not mixed; we're kind of getting stuff done as we can and it just sort of worked out where we could put out a short four or five song thing now and then get the next four or five out in a few months. It seems like you're always on an album cycle now whereas before bands would put out a 10 song record then they'd tour for a year or a year and a half then go in and write the next record and it might be a couple of years until the next cycle but now with the EPs and the way people are releasing singles to the streaming services it seems like you never really take time off; it seems you're always putting something out and always out supporting it. It just seems to be kind of the way the business is these days; it has been my experience in the business that it has always been feast or famine. It's very rare that you can kind of make a living on the in between, so you really have to learn how to wear a lot of hats. I just edited our video so I'm learning how to use editing software and you have to know how to do social media and know how to do this and do that. I've always loved graphic design, I took it in school, so I'm getting ready to renew my Photoshop subscription so I can get my feet wet with all that so that I don't have to rely on outside people to do our cover art and we can become one self-contained unit. I don't mind it so much because I'm a control freak so it's good for people like me (laughs)."
So did the self-proclaimed "Control freak" produce the new EP?
"I did, yeah, I have a Pro Tools studio in my basement and it's a very relaxed atmosphere for me so I can go down there and tweak things til my heart's content. It's one of the reasons why I like video so much; you can just kind of get in the zone with editing and it's like being in the recording studio, it's the same kind of deal. I tend to sometimes get hyper-focused on things; I guess my OCD kicks in so it's a wonderful thing in some aspects."
Baltimore has seen its share of bad publicity and tough times over the years and it hasn't been lost on its native son. Allen gets a bit melancholy as he discusses his personal feelings about the perception of his hometown and how he's tried to change it.
"I feel like, in a lot of ways that I've been on that mission forever," he said in more mellow tones. "Baltimore has always kind of gotten a bit of a sketchy rap. Years ago, the nickname "Charm City" was really; I had an inkling as to why the city was nicknamed that so I did some research and it turns out that I was correct. It seems that the city fathers, I guess in the 70's decided that they needed to re-brand the city because it had such a bad reputation through the 1950's and 60's and they wanted to do something about it. They came up with this nickname "Charm City" and it seemed to work and the city was on the upswing for a long time but like most big cities around the country it's having its share of struggles. That was exasperated a few years ago with Freddie Gray's death and subsequent riots and people see that on national TV and they see shows like "The Wire" and they're automatically terrified of coming into downtown Baltimore. It's not been my experience but even the guys I grew up with are a little concerned. We were playing downtown last year with my side project and they were like, "I don't know about going around the corner" and I was like, c'mon dude; we grew up in a blue collar area that was pretty tough and my feeling is that anything can happen anywhere but you have to always keep awareness about yourself and pay attention to your surroundings. So as far as a crusade to defend my hometown; it doesn't feel good when someone talks shit about your hometown. It's kind of like, I can talk shit about my brother but you can't."
Like most bands, Allen and his crew have had to adopt to changing times and had released a single from the EP prior to its recent release. The single titled "Skipping Stone" was the first one to hit the airwaves but why was it chosen?
"We just felt like it was probably the strongest song, or maybe it was just because it was just the first one done," he said with a large laugh. "I thought it was a pretty kick ass song and we felt it was pretty strong; the last song we finished for the EP was "Dollar Signs" and that's been the track that we released if you pre-ordered the EP like a teaser until the EP came out on November 22."
With the EP dropped; what's next for the band? Festival circuit? Local gigs or perhaps a tour?
"We want to do all of that stuff. We just got a new agency and we are putting together touring stuff as we speak but we are now doing some warm up shows regionally to get back out on the scene and that will be followed up by some radio to follow up on the support that we've gotten in support of our single, "Skipping Stone."
To discover more about Charm City Devils, please go to www.charmcitydevils.com .
That's it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week....ROCK ON!
Bill's Olde Tavern
2694 Nottingham Way Hamilton
Thurs. 7 p.m. Ladies Night
Wed. 9 p.m. Karaoke Contest
Blend Bar & Bistro
911 Highway 33 Hamilton
Sun. 7 p.m. Karaoke
Tues. 8 p.m. Trivia Jam
Wed. 7 p.m. Karaoke
11 Amboy Road Bordentown
Sat. 8:30 p.m. Karaoke Night
1600 River Road New Hope, PA
Fri. (5 p.m.) Bennett Lee (8 p.m.) Bob Egan
Sat. 7 p.m. Andrea Carlson Trio
Sun. 6 p.m. Lorenzo
Mon. 6 p.m. Andy Prescott
Tues. 6 p.m. Ed Wilson
Wed. 6 p.m. Lorenzo
Brickwall Tavern & Dining Room
19 E. Union Street Burlington
Fri. 11 p.m. DJ Ronny Rayz
Sun. 5 p.m. Becky's Beard Unit
Wed. 7 p.m. Quizzoholics
Broken Goblet Brewing
2500 State Road Bensalem, PA
Fri. 6 p.m. "Zombie Turkey Paintball"
All Shows 21+
24 Passaic Street Trenton
Thurs. 6 p.m. Thursday Night Blues Jam. $5 (Includes hot buffet)
Sat. 3 p.m. (TBA) $10 (cover charge/$10 Minimum includes buffet)
931 Chambers street Trenton
Sat. 6 p.m. "Friendsgiving" feat. Departed, Gloves Off, Freeze, Chains of Misery, Gopnik, Inner Turmoil. All ages, $10
Mon. 8 p.m. "Art Chill Night"
Tuesday 8 p.m. "Jam Night" Hosted by Nikki & Caleb
Chickie's & Pete's
183 US Highway 130 North Bordentown
Tues. 8 p.m. Acoustic Music Night
Wed. 9 p.m. Quizzo Trivia
510 Highway 130 South East Windsor
Mon. 9 p.m. "Malibu Mondays"
Tues. 9 p.m. Trivia w/ Jessie & Chelsea
Wed. 6:30 p.m. "Wine Down Wednesdays" w/ Rich Genoval
125 South Main Street Hightstown
Sun. 7 p.m. "Rock On Radio" feat. Bill Nobes and Nikki Nailbomb of "Analog Trenton"
540 East State Street Trenton
Tues. 6 p.m. Line Dance Classes
50 Riverview Plaza Trenton
Fri. 4 p.m. Paradise Happy Hour"
Sat. 9 p.m. "Saturday Night Social"
Sun. (11 a.m.) "Sunday Brunch" (1 p.m.) "Holiday Party"
Tues. 7 p.m. Karaoke
215 West Philadelphia Avenue Morrisville, PA
Fri. 7 p.m. Acoustic Music Night feat.
Wed. 8 p.m. Quizzo
Dog & Bull Brew House
810 Bristol Pike (Rte. 13) Croydon, PA.
Fri. (11 a.m.) Keli Vale (8 p.m.) Gabe Guma
Sat. 11 a.m. "Saturday Brunch"
Sun. 11 a.m. "Sunday Brunch"
Tues. 7 p.m. Trivia
Fedora Bistro Cafe
2633 Main Street Lawrenceville
Wed. 6 p.m. Jerry Monk
116 South Main Street New Hope, PA
Fri. 8 p.m. Full Grown Men
Sat. 7 p.m. The Green Planet
1031 Washington Boulevard Robbinsville
Sun. 3 p.m. Open Mic and Karaoke
90 South Main Street New Hope, PA
Fri. 9 p.m. Chris Lutz Quartet
Sat. 9 p.m. Stage Left
Tues. 8 p.m. Open Mic Night Hosted by Sam Ryan Music
Grover's Mill Coffee House
Princeton-Hightstown Road Princeton Junction
Thurs. 6:30 p.m. Open Mic. Hosted by Anker
4617 Nottingham Way Hamilton Square
Sat. 7 p.m. Deb & Mike
Hamilton Tap & Grill
557 US Route 130 North Hamilton
Fri. 9 p.m. Karaoke
Tues. 8 p.m.Trivia Challenge
Havana New Hope
105 S. Main Street New Hope, PA.
Fri. (8:30 p.m.) Late Last Night (12 a.m.) DJ Dance Party
Sat. 8:30 p.m. Stealing Savanah. $8 (12 a.m.) DJ Dance Party
Sun. 3 p.m. Ladies 2000
Mon. 9:30 p.m. "Lipstick Mondays Drag show" followed by Karaoke w/ Dwayne "Sagittarius White Party"
Tues. 8 p.m. Funk 'N' Blues Jam Hosted by Sidewinder Blues Band
Wed. 9:30 p.m. Original Music Showcase Hosted by Pat Foran feat. Open Mic Night
5 South Greenwood Avenue Hopewell
Fri./Sat. 8 p.m. Chris Harford and the Band of Changes. $26, $28
Tues. 6:30 p.m. "5B" Screening and Panel Discussion w/ Brendan Gaul. FREE admission (6 Tickets Per Person Limit)
Hopewell Valley Bistro & Inn
15 East Broad Street Hopewell
Fri. 8 p.m. Open Mic Night
Hopewell Valley Vineyards
46 Yard Avenue Pennington
Fri. 6 p.m. "Music & Merlot" feat. Deb & Mike
Sat. 6 p.m. "Music & Merlot" feat. The Winery Cats
Sun. 3 p.m. "Jazzy Sundays" feat. Sergio Neri
Hurricane Jacks Bar and Grill
7759 New Falls Road Levittown, PA
Thurs. 9 p.m. Karaoke w/ Paul Kircher
Tues. 9 p.m. Karaoke w/ Paula & Sam
Irish Rover Station House
1033 Bellevue Avenue Langhorne, PA
Thurs. 8 p.m. Karaoke
Fri. 9:30 p.m. DJ Entertainment
Sat. 9:30 p.m. Shameless
Wed. 7 p.m. Trivia
Iron Plow Vineyards
26750 Mount Pleasant Road Columbus
Fri. 6 p.m. Radio Fiction
Sat. 2 p.m. The Williamsboy
Sun. 1 p.m. Lisa Bouchelle
Iron Plow Vineyards Tasting Room
61 High Street Mt. Holly
Fri. 7 p.m. Ed Wilson
Sat. 7:30 p.m. The Williamsboy
3108 S. Broad Street, Hamilton
Thurs. 9:30 p.m. Karaoke
Fri. 9 p.m. Union
Sat. 9 p.m. Tour de Force
All shows 21+
869 Bustleton Pike Richboro, PA
Thurs. 7 p.m. "Ladies Night"
Wed. 8 p.m. Trivia Night
John & Peter's
96 S. Main Street New Hope, Pa
Thurs. 9 p.m. Chris Harford and the Band of Changes
Fri. 9 p.m. Pop Punk Throwbacks IV
Sat. (3 p.m.) No More Fences (9 p.m.) SuperFunkSplosion
Sun. (3 p.m.) A Very Cow Pals Christmas (9 p.m.) Room For Mojo
Mon. 9 p.m. Open Mic
Wed. 9 p.m. The Invitational
All shows 21+
Killarney's Publick House
1644 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road Hamilton
Fri. (6 p.m.) Joanna Caruso (10 p.m.) DJ Bay
Sat.10 p.m. "80's Night" w/ 80's Undercover
Wed. 7 p.m. Drop Beat Bingo
Lambertville Elks Lodge #1070
66 Wilson Street Lambertville
Sun. (2:30 p.m.) "Holiday CD Release Concert" Hosted by Lambertville Historical Society feat. Lonesome Coyote, Cafe Mocha, The Back Porch Jug Band, Barry Peterson, The Maebells, Christopher Howatt, Santa P and the Elves (7:30 p.m.) Todd "The Mod" Ellis, Richard Jarboe, Mark Wilber Stewart, Spirit LIVE Orchestre, Singularity, The Shackers, Laurie Vosburg and the Fa La La La Las. $5 (Suggested donation)
85 Archertown Road New Egypt
Sat.1 p.m. Gary Sfragal
Sun. 1 p.m. First Call
Wed. 6 p.m. "Girls Night Out"
10 West Ferry Street New Hope, PA
Sun. 11 a.m. "Jazz Brunch"
572 Klockner Road Hamilton
Wed. 7 p.m. Karaoke
Marcellos Coal Fired Restaurant & Pizza
206 Farnsworth Avenue Bordentown
Sun. 10 a.m. "Blues Brunch"
1781 Brunswick Avenue Lawrence
Fri. 9 p.m. "Flawless Friday"
Tues. 9 p.m. Karaoke
McStews Irish Sports Pub
5316 New Falls Road Levittown, PA
Thurs. 10 p.m. "Beer Pong Night"
Sat. 9 p.m. Metallica Tribute w/ "Orion"
Tues. 7:30 p.m. Video Trivia
300 S. Broad Street Trenton
Fri. 10 p.m. Ides, Dab Nebula, Bayht Lahm, Keef Chamber, Ignorant Life. Ages 21+, doors open at 9 p.m., $3 (w/ non-perishable food donation $5 without)
Sat. 9 p.m. Cathedral Ceilings, Erotic Novels, September's Ghost, Candy Cavity
Tues. 8 p.m. "Millhill Experiment"
Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company
909 Ray Avenue Croydon, PA
Sat. 7:30 p.m. Kaiju Big Battel. Doors open at 7 p.m., $21.50, $26.50, $31.50
New Hope Winery
6123 Lower York Road New Hope, PA
Sat. 8 p.m. Route 80's. Doors open at 7 p.m., $15
2043 Route 130 South Florence
Tues. 8 p.m. Trivia Tuesday w/ Quizoholics
9 Mercer Street Hamilton Square
Thurs. 9:30 p.m. Karaoke w/ Super Dave Curtis
Fri. 9 p.m. Dawgs Acoustic
Sat. 9 p.m. Polish Nannies
Old Town Pub
135 Farnsworth Avenue Bordentown
Thurs. 8 p.m. Quizzoholics Trivia
Fri. 9 p.m. 4 AM
Palermo's Of Hamilton
310 Klockner Road Hamilton
Thurs. 8 p.m. Karaoke
All shows 21 +
Nassau Street Princeton
Thurs. 4 p.m. "Skating On The Square" $10 (Includes skate rental)
Fri. 5 p.m. "Tree Lighting 2019" feat. Princeton High School Choir, Princeton School of Rock
Sat. 12 p.m. "Holiday Entertainment" feat. Harmonics Quartet w/ Strolling Santa (12 p.m./4 p.m.) "Skating On the Square" $10 (Includes skate rental)
Sun. 12 p.m. "Holiday Entertainment" feat. Jersey Harmony Chorus w/ Strolling Santa. (12 p.m./4 p.m.) "Skating On the Square" $10 (Includes skate rental)
1339 River Road Titusville
Thurs. 8 p.m. Open Mic Night
Wed. 7 p.m. "Quizzo"
Pete's Steak House
523 Whitehorse Avenue Hamilton
Sat. 9 p.m. Ernie White & Lisa Bouchelle
Pj's Pancake House & Tavern
19 Main Street Robbinsville
Tues. 6:30 p.m. Open Mic Night
River Cat Cafe`
142 South Main Street New Hope, PA
Mon. 6 p.m. "Monday Night Jazz"
Salt Creek Grille
1 Rockingham Row Princeton
Fri. 8 p.m. Party of Three
Sat. 8 p.m. Glenn Alexander
Small World Coffee
14 Witherspoon Street Princeton
(609) 924-4377 x2
Sat. 8 p.m. The GBC 3YO
Starbucks Coffee (Trenton Community Store)
102 South Warren Street Trenton
Sat. 3 p.m. Open Mic
101 Scotch Road Ewing
Fri. 8 p.m. Kathleen Scheide. $20
Sun. 2 p.m. Eric Mintel Quartet. $20
Tavern On The Lake
101 Main Street Hightstown
Fri. 9 p.m. El Ka Bong
Sat. 9 p.m. Jazmyn Adelle Band
5 South State Street Newtown, PA
Thurs. 7 p.m. Blues Open Mic Hosted by Steve Guyger
Fri. 7 p.m. Kate Sottile
Sat. 7 p.m. Far Away Guys
Tues. 7 p.m. Trivia w/ Righteous Jolly
Wed. 7 p.m. Open Mic Night w/ Cara Cartney
812 Route 33 Hamilton
Wed. 8 p.m. Karaoke
The Birdhouse Center For The Arts
7 North Main Street Lambertville
Tues. 7:30 p.m. Not Just Nyckleharpa Orchestra
The Cool Cricket
216 Burlington Street Fieldsboro
Fri. 9 p.m. Karaoke
Sat. 9 p.m. Self Induced
The Cure Insurance Center
81 Hamilton Ave. Trenton
Check website for upcoming events
The Deck Restaurant and Bar @ the Bucks County Playhouse
70 South Main street New Hope, PA
Sat. 10:30 p.m. Matt Gordeuk
Sun. 2 p.m. / 7 p.m. Sam Ryan
Tues. 7 p.m. Aidan Holtz
Wed. (2 p.m.) Sam Ryan (7 p.m.) Aidan Holtz
34 North Main Street New Hope, PA
Fri. 7 p.m. Ray Coleman
Sun. 2 p.m. "Traditional Irish Session" Hosted by Corey Purcell
The Five Four Bar & Grill
8919 New Falls Road Levittown, PA
Fri. 9 p.m. Blue Reign
Sat. 9:30 p.m. Philly Rock & Soul
The HOB Tavern
146 Second Street Bordentown
Fri. 8 p.m. DJ Entertainment
Sun. 1 p.m. Open Circle
Wed. 8 p.m. Open Mic Night
The Ivy Inn
248 Nassau Street Princeton
Thurs. 10 p.m. Karaoke w/ DJ Rockin' Ron
Tues. 8 p.m. Quizzo w/ Bob E Luv
Wed. 10 p.m. DJ Dujour
The Pines Tavern
6217 North Radcliffe Street Bristol, PA
Sat. 9 p.m. Finster
Sun. 4 p.m. Soul Custody Trio
The Record Collector
358 Farnsworth Avenue Bordentown
Fri. (10 a.m.) "Record Store Day" (1:30 p.m.) The Successful Failures 8 p.m. All ages, Doors open at 7:30 p.m., $15 (Advance)
181 Rte. 539 Cream Ridge
Fri. 8 p.m. Shore Bet
Sat. 8 p.m. Nicole & Denise
Sun. 4 p.m. Dick Gratton
The Sticky Wicket
2465 South Broad Street Hamilton
Tues. 7 p.m. Karaoke
The Sycamore Grill
255 North Sycamore Street Newtown, PA
Fri. 8 p.m. Kick Bax Acoustic Trio
Sat. 8 p.m. Jamie Stem
The Union Firehouse
18 Washington Street Mount Holly
Fri. (4 p.m.) Happy Hour (7:30 p.m.) "The Office" Trivia
Sat. 5 p.m. Happy Hour
The Vibe Lounge at Mastoris
Route 130 and Route 206 Bordentown
Thurs. 5 p.m. Dave Boucher
Fri. 7 p.m. Zone Duo
Sat. 6 p.m. J. Staffarie
Tindall Road Brewing Co.
102 Farnsworth Avenue Bordentown
Sat. (5 p.m.) "Bordentown Tree Lighting After Party" feat. Holiday Carol Sing Along (7 p.m.) Skelly
Tir Na Nog
1324 Hamilton Avenue Trenton
Sat. 9 p.m. Paul Weise
All Shows 21+
Train Wreck Distillery
25 Madison Avenue Mount Holly
Fri. 7 p.m. John Johnson Duo
Sat. 7 p.m. Dave Murray
702 Pine Street Trenton
Fri. 8 p.m. Live Band & Open Mic.
Sat. 10 p.m. "Buzzed Saturdays" w/ Bockman
449 South Broad Street Trenton
Thurs. 5 p.m. "Happy Hour" Hosted by Jay Kountree
Tues. 7 p.m. Open Mic Night
Wed. 6 p.m. Dick Gratton
Triple Sun Spirits
126 South State Street Newtown, PA
Wed. 7 p.m. "Singles Mixer" 20s-30s
Triumph Brewing Company (New Hope, Pa. Location)
400 Union Square New Hope, Pa.
Thurs. 8 p.m. Trivia
Fri.10 p.m. Essie Riddle. $5 (cover charge)
Sat. 10 p.m. Rob Duncan & the Funkin' Soul Band. $5 (cover charge)
Sun. 7 p.m. Open Stage
All shows 21+
VFW Post 491
9 Fisher Place Yardville
Fri. 8 p.m. Karaoke
Sat. 7:45 p.m. "Paint & Sip"
All shows ages 21+
2572 Pennington Road Pennington
Sat. 9 p.m. Acoustic Rock Night
Mon. 9 p.m. "Moonshine Mondays" Trivia
Working Dog Winery
610 Windsor Perrineville Road Hightstown
Fri. 1 p.m. Kevin McGowan
Sat. 1 p.m. Spoondrift
Yardley Inn Restaurant & Bar
82 East Afton Avenue Yardley, PA
Sat. 8 p.m. Jonathn Ashe
Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.